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GOLDILOCKS - The Fairy Tale

The Fairytale is a very simple one, about a girl named Goldilocks who stumbles upon the house of Three Bears.

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Finding a house deep in the forest she discovers the table is laid for breakfast. Feeling hungry she chooses the smallest of the three chairs, which breaks, and chooses from the bowls of steaming porridge. One is too hot, the other too cold, and the third one is just right, so she eats it all.

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Feeling tired she goes upstairs to discover three beds. Trying each one out she finds one is too hard, the other is too soft, and the third one is perfect. She falls fast asleep.

The Three Bears return and the smallest of the bears is horrified to discover someone has broken his chair, eaten his porridge and is sleeping in his bed.

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Goldilocks awakes to find the Three Bears around the bed, and flees from the house in terror.


One likely origin of the story dates from an old Scottish folktale about a young vixen that is eaten after trespassing into a bears den. It is a cautionary tale about breaking the laws of privacy and property.

It became popular after being published by Robert Southey in his book “The Doctor” in 1837. The Brothers Grimm retold the story in their collection of tales, adding the location in the forest, and her falling asleep on the bed.

She may well have begun life in early versions as an old woman, but soon became a young girl called Silver-hair, Silverlocks, and finally Goldilocks.

1953 - Northallerton


The plot of Goldilocks, unlike many other pantomimes is not set in stone. The simple tale of Goldilocks and three bears is only a small part of the pantomime. There are many variations on the panto story, but in general they all revolve around a circus theme.

The version below is taken from Paul Elliott’s production from 1992.

Goldilocks and The Three Bears- The Panto.

The story takes place in a circus run by Goldilocks’ mother, Gertie. The circus isn’t doing very well, and Gertie owes a lot of money to the circus artistes and tradesmen.

Silly Billy is the ring boy who wants to be a circus star one day. He is in love with Goldilocks.

He gives her a special present- a music box- to show how much he loves her, but he cannot compete with another admirer of Goldilocks- a rich Texan called “Starbuck”.

One night Gertie puts the savings into the safe (which is a large honeypot in her caravan kitchen). While she sleeps Three Bears pass the circus, and, seeing the honeypot they steal it, thinking it contains honey, not money!

Baby Bear is fascinated by the music box, so he steals that too, and the three bears run off into the woods.

Gertie discovers that the money is missing. It is a disaster. Silly Billy, The Ringmaster, Goldilocks and the Clowns head off into the woods in search of the three bears. Goldilocks becomes separated from the others. Tired and hungry she stumbles across the Bears cottage in the woods.

There is no-one at home. She sees three bowls set on the table containing porridge. One is too hot, one is too cold, and the third one is just right.

Feeling sleepy she searches out a bedroom, and find there are three beds. One is too hard, the other too soft, and the last one is just right. Goldilocks falls fast asleep.

The Three Bears return home. They sit down to eat their porridge. “Who’s been eating my porridge?” says Father Bear. “Who’s been eating my porridge?” says Mother Bear, “And who’s been eating MY porridge and gobbled it all up?” cries Baby Bear.

They discover the beds have been disturbed also- “Someone has been sleeping in my bed” chorus Father and Mother Bear, and Baby Bear is astonished to discover Goldilocks, fast asleep in his bed.

Awoken by Baby Bear, Goldilocks explains that the money from the circus is missing, and that her music box has vanished. The Bears confess- they really only wanted honey- bears love honey. Baby Bear plays the music box one last time, and the three bears begin to dance. Dancing Bears! This could be the star turn that would save Gertie’s circus!

Goldilocks and the bears return to the circus, and their dancing act is a huge success. However, a rival circus owner named Heinkel is jealous of this attraction, and he poisons Baby Bear. The act cannot continue and Baby Bear is very ill. Silly Billy has heard of a magic spring in the woods where all the sick animals go to get better, and so they carry Baby Bear to the  waterfall, and all is well. Meanwhile Goldilocks has become engaged to Starbuck, and they plan to leave for America,

Meanwhile, Heinkel tricks Gertie into selling him the Three Bears, and he takes them off to his own circus. Starbuck promises Goldilocks he will buy the circus other bears, dozens of bears, but she is adamant- she wants her three bears returned, and asks Billy to help her with this task.

Billy and Goldilocks creep into Heinkel’s Circus at the dead of night, and Billy is forced to fight Heinkel for them. He wins, and the Three Bears return to live with Gertie. Goldilocks is so grateful to Billy for being her hero, but her mother isn’t so sure.- Billy took the law into his own hands.

“I am taking away your job as ring attendant!” she tells him. “But Why?” asks Billy. “Because I can’t have my only daughter marry a ring attendant. That is why I’m taking away your job, and giving you my circus!”

Billy marries Goldilocks, the Three Bears get to live with Gertie, and all ends happy ever after!



In Victorian times the pantomime was regularly presented. Early versions include: “Harlequin and the Three Bears, or, Little Silver Hair and the Fairies”.(1852. Her Majesty’s Theatre)

W.S. Gilbert  (of the Savoy Operas) wrote a version of “Goldilocks” in 1867 It was performed at The Lyceum Theatre London.. It was his main contribution to the world of pantomime.

Goldilocks the pantomime has survived from the Victorian era, but has never been one of the most popular subjects. Looking at lists of pantomimes over the past hundred years it has, and indeed is, still performed, but not regularly.

Between 1910 and 1920 there were no major productions of “Goldilocks” in the UK.

1922 Manchester

In 1922 Manchester Opera House presented “Goldilocks” with Nora Delany. It was the only production of the subject in that year.

Howard & Wyndham presented their first in 1925. They set the tale in a circus, with the rivalry between two circus owners- one evil and one good. The pantomime contained a full circus ring, and introduced speciality acts into the story. Between 1925-1945 H&W presented the pantomime Eight Times.

Nora Delany - 1922 Manchester


1925                King’s Edinburgh with Eve Lynn and Tom.D. Newell

1926                Theatre Royal Nottingham with Nora Bancroft and Douglas Byng

1930                Theatre Royal, Glasgow with Tommy Lorne

1935                King’s Theatre Edinburgh with Marjery Wyn and Jack Hayes

1939                Theatre Royal Glasgow  with Jewell & Warriss.

1943                King’s Theatre Edinburgh with Adele Dixon and Jack Hayes

1944                Newcastle with Jimmy Jewell and Ben Warriss

1945                Royal Court Liverpool with Dave Morris and Josef Lock

Nora Bancroft - 1926 Nottingham

The Pantomime seems to have been the solution to the problems managements faced when their theatres were in need of a different subject- by way of a change. In an era when a city or town might support two or three theatres each presenting a pantomime, Goldilocks, along with “Goody Two Shoes”, “Sindbad” or Old King Cole” might be the answer to repeating a subject your rival may have presented a year before.

1959 - Grand Theatre, Leeds

The difference is, Goldilocks has survived into the 21st century, and the others have fallen by the wayside.

Lily Long - 1926 Grand Theatre, Leeds

Because the tale is so very brief and basic, modern pantomimes have had to expand on it, and create an entire new story around the episode in the Bear’s cottage- otherwise it would be a very short pantomime with an extremely small cast!

There are variations on the plot- and no two versions of Goldilocks would be the exact same plotline. Unlike an “Aladdin” or a “Cinderella” there is a great freedom to create a plot, and to incorporate the four characters into a workable story that includes a Dame, A Villain and of course a Comic.

The pantomime also proved to be a useful “all Year Round” subject for a touring pantomime. During the 1970’s and in the 1980’s there were several productions that played school holidays and term times. The subject was unlikely to clash with  a theatre’s own pantomime plans for Christmas, and the Circus theme didn’t restrict audiences from associating it with Festive Fare.

John Morley created a version in the 1980’s that encompassed all the elements, and placed the tale firmly in the circus, where it is most likely to be seen today

The Cairoli's - 1992 Wimbledon

The pantomime offers the chance for producers to cast skilled circus artistes as well as pantomime artistes. The Cairoli family, Tweedy and Alexis and Clive Webb and Danny Adams are just a few of those panto stars who bring the Circus to life in this setting.

1992 Wimbledon

Up until quite recently this pantomime offered the chance for appearances by animal acts to feature. I saw a version of Goldilocks presented at the Theatre Royal Hanley that had not only three “live” bears (seen very briefly, then exchanged for performers in Bear Costumes) and an entire scene featuring Panthers! Apparently it took several months before the theatre stopped smelling like a zoo.!

Live bears can be a tad troublesome too: Laura Nayman who played the lead role with a blonde wig to disguise her raven locks was none to happy when Baby Bear whipped her wig off revealing she was wearing a stocking top on her head, in front of a full house!

Renee Bourne-Webb, playing the Fairy saved the day by retrieving the golden curls from Baby Bear’s paws, and handing it back to Goldilocks with a wry smile!

Peter Butterworth

A 1972 version of “Goldilocks” with Peter Butterworth (of “Carry On” Fame) as Dame and Harry Worth as the Circus owner featured Mdme Louise’s Poodle Revue” as the speciality. A lot easier than Panthers one would imagine?

1962 Leeds

Peter Butterworth appeared regularly each season as Dame in Goldilocks for several years, through the late 1950’s through to the 1970’s.

Older versions of Goldilocks had a Principal Boy (played by a girl, as you would expect) and the love interest was not between Goldilocks and Billy, as it often is now. Sometimes the Principal Boy would be a Prince.

Almost from the start of his career as a Panto producer, Paul Elliott has regularly presented “Goldilocks” both in this country, and abroad- including the Lionel Blair production in Toronto.

Various Paul Elliott Productions - Kilburn, Toronto and Wimbledon

1992 Wimbledon

The version presented by Paul Elliott at Wimbledon Theatre in 1992 was a definitive version, using the circus skills of Charlie Cairoli  and company,and the Ben Karim Troupe of acrobats, and again at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 1997 when Frank Bruno became the Ringmaster, and the circus skills of trapeze artiste Genevieve Monastesse were in evidence.

1997/8 Birmingham

Paul Elliott has recently presented a brand new version of “Goldilocks” at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh proving that the subject is still very much alive and living in circus-land.

2007/8 Edinburgh


The Principal Girl:

Goldilocks, obviously, but as mentioned in very early versions Silverlocks and Silverhair.


The Chief Comic:

He has been variously Silly Billy, Billy, or Humphrey The Handyman (1972) In a few older versions (1950’s)  he has been Dickie Didlum, the son of the Dame. He is usually a Ring attendant with aspirations to be a Circus Star.


Principal Boy:

Older versions sometimes had a traditional “Prince” as the love interest (often today it is Billy the Ring Boy). He has been named differently in almost every pantomime. “Prince Conrad”, “Prince Romano”,and when not royal he has been plain Romano


The Dame:

In recent years the Dame has been Gertie, Gertie Gemmell, and Madame Rose Ringler. Without an established traditional name, she can be given any name. She has also been Dame Didlum. Generally she owns the circus, and is the Mother of Goldilocks.


The Villain:

Recently the rival circus owner has been called Heinkel, but he has been Gruber, or Captain Gruber. He tends to be Germanic in many pantomimes.


1973 - New Theatre, Cardiff

This page was last updated 25th March 2008

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